D.N : This string of interviews looks like becoming a bad omen - the aftermath of the previous two resulting in losses ... have Rangers finally run out of steam ?
GORDON IGESUND : No, not at all - its just that we have run into a patch of extremely bad luck. It happens to most teams and if you look at the statistics prior to this purple patch after going on a high of something like 9-10 games without a loss we have suddenly stumbled into a bad bit. But we are extremely positive, and taking every game as it comes, I'm sure we will get back into the winning groove very soon.
D.N : Theories, critiscisms and suggestions have been flying in thick and fast with answers to the Rangers dilemma. How do you react to these comments ?
GORDON IGESUND : Its quite irritating that all of these comments come flying out of the woodwork now - why were'nt they suggesting when we were on the top of our game? But like I said, it is'nt a problem as such .. just the bad run of luck that we have been having. What people forget is, that the players are also human and you cannot really expect a team to perform consistently week-in and week-out. Everyone is bound to go through a bad patch now and again. Its just unfortunate that we are going through ours now, especially at this stage of the season.
D.N : One 'suggestion' to come through the grapevine was that you dont adopt the "squad system" enough - thereby making the team revolve to much around centrebacks Mark Davies and Bradley Muir - and which, in a sense, makes them indispensable ?
GORDON IGESUND : Thats not true. A squad system is employed at every soccer club, and Rangers is no exception. I have a squad of 22 players, of which, there are at least 2 players to every position as a backup should one get injured. In the Manning Rangers team there is no automatic First XI and everyone in the squad is always playing for their position. To suggest even that Mark Davies and Bradley Muir (as examples) are indispensable is ludicrous. This keeps players hungry, but at the same time also enforces the unity in the team as the players play for each other. A valid example of this would be the competition for the goalkeeping berth between Grant Johnson and Craig Mentz. Grant is one of the more consistent players in the Premier League, yet he had a terrible game and Craig was immediately snapped into the squad and kept that place for about 8-9 games until Craig had a loss of form and Grant has come back into the frame.
My point being, that players are selected on form and not on names. We had a horrid time with team selections in the game against Qwa Qwa Stars where because of injuries and suspensions we had to play certain players out of position. I usually play with a sweeper and 3 centrebacks, when you have a situation where the players for those positions in the squad are out for some reason - you inevitably have to plug the gaps. And this was the case against Stars where several players were played out of their normal positions and in a competitive Premier League fixture this shows out terribly.
GORDON IGESUND : I think, also what people must remember is the limited resources with which we deal with here at Manning Rangers - and out of which, we have managed to make a success out of the club in 4 odd years. I suppose, only a fanatical Rangers fan would have automatically assumed at the beginning of the season that Rangers were going to win the League. We donot have the money to throw around on new players every time we're in trouble instead we rely on our players who have pulled through time and time again. In light of this, our achievements this season cannot be unduly critiscised and must be looked at in perspective with all the other factors - an extended run in the African Champions League, being ranked the top South African club in the world and also a probable Top 3 finish in the Premier League this season. Manning Rangers have not been out of the Top 5 in the last 4 years and I think its realistic to expect that no club can be expected to win a highly competitive Premier League 3 years in a row either!
D.N : So where do we go from here ?
GORDON IGESUND : Our next game is against Kaizer Chiefs at Johannesburg Athletic Stadium, the 6-pointer, that everyone has been talking about. Though at this stage, not everything is cut and dried as far as the League goes and anything could happen. Mamelodi Sundowns have a tough run together with their Champions League commitments - Chiefs as well are riding a high after their Rothmans success and people are expecting the best out of them as well.
D.N : How are our preparations going in respect to that game?
GORDON IGESUND :Its going quite well, and we're going to be treating it like any another game and try not to let the pressure get to us. In the last couple of games it felt almost as if the players were trying to hard - and it was probably a case of the pressure being built up in the press had gotten to them. Mark Davies (knee) and Bradley Muir are coming along nicely with their injuries - and we should also have Robbie Milne (hamstring) and Innocent Chikoya back too.
D.N : 'Doctor' Khumalo seems to have been given a new spurt of life from somewhere - he has been the lynchpin in Chiefs' wins recently. Are we going to look to close him down like we did to Sundowns playmakers recently or how are we going to contain him ?
GORDON IGESUND : With a team like Kaizer Chiefs you can't really single out a player as the one you're going to have to look out for and concentrate on. They have so many good players that can change a game like as we've recently with game breaking performances from Thabo Mooki, Thabang Lebese, Robert Nauseb and Mohammed Auseb. Just when you think you're going to close down one - another pops out of the woodwork to finish up. I think that getting to the ball first and making first time tackles count are going to be our priorities - as would be in any game.
D.N : A lot is often said about Rangers physical approach to the game. Is this a result of your own playing style as a striker during your playing career?
GORDON IGESUND : I'm not sure whether anyone can tag Rangers as being the most physical team - that tag would almost certainly go to a side like Jomo Cosmos who tackle the living daylights out of any team. If I gauge our tackling to theirs, I think we're just about only half as ferocious as they are. In fact, I often berate my own players for not tackling enough.
While on the subject of tackling, I strictly abhorr dangerous tackles and tackles made on players themselves instead of the ball is unwarranted. Earlier this season in the Chiefs vs Rangers game, Gilbert Mushangazike was fined R500 for a terrible tackle on Thabang Lebese which could have broken his leg. Its there were a coach has to draw the line on the physical approach to the game. Even though soccer is a gentlemans game - you also have to admit that its a mans game and theres no shirking that.
D.N : In your previous column in The Mercury (20/03/1999 - Gordon Igesund Column) you were very much in favour of the innovations made by FIFA . But where do you draw the line so that soccer does not ultimately end up like the 'mother of all innovations' American GridIron Football ?
GORDON IGESUND : Innovation is always going to be good for any game - in that it makes the sport ultimately more spectator friendly .. who in the end, ultimately decides whether an innovation is going to be a success or not. The point being made in that article was in reference to the adoption of the two-referee system. This is going to be ultimately for the better of the game in that it will reduce the error rate that referees are sometimes prone too - after all they are also human. It also reduces the the inconsistent decisions that go around. Two valid examples.
In the end, it is decisions like these, which might have been prevented with two referees. Ultimately, it is these vital moments which seal fates - 3 League Points and R1-million. I suppose when you consider that it puts everything suddenly in perspective.
D.N : Away from soccer - if you were given 3 wishes in life, what would they be ?
GORDON IGESUND : 3 wishes? Well, that does'nt take too much to think about really.